UNIVERSAL REMOTE & ACCESSORY REVIEWS

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Adrienne Maxwell Posted: Apr 01, 2004 0 comments
The Harmony SST-659 universal remote—smart, so you don't have to be.

Programming a universal remote is, to put it mildly, unfun. About 10 more-colorful adjectives came to mind before unfun, but this is a PG-13 magazine—and I'm a lady, after all. If you're financially well endowed, you not only have the luxury of buying one of the higher-end A/V controllers that can control your gear and do your taxes at the same time, but you probably also have a custom installer who can handle the joys of programming that controller all by his or her lonesome.

Scott Wilkinson Posted: Feb 15, 2004 0 comments

Universal remote controls can be great for integrating the control of a home theater system. However, all infrared (IR) remotes suffer one significant drawback: they must be pointed at the component they are controlling, with a clear line of sight. If components are hidden and/or located in several different areas of the room, it's difficult or impossible to operate them in an integrated manner. Of course, you can spring for a high-end control system from a company such as Crestron or AMX, but we're talking big bucks there.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Dec 01, 2003 0 comments
The best thing to happen to home theater since the DVD.

Quick, what do your home theater system's remote control and your underwear have in common? (If your answer is that they both require batteries, I don't want to hear about it.) The correct answer is that they both need to be a comfortable fit (physically in the case of the underwear and ergonomically/functionally in the case of the remote) or else they'll annoy the hell out of you all evening long. Unfortunately, while the standard remote controls that come with most home theater components may be able to control multiple devices, when it comes to using them on a daily basis to operate an entire home theater system, they're usually about as cozy as a tight pair of burlap boxers.

Mike Wood Posted: May 12, 2003 Published: May 13, 2003 0 comments
Better sound without additional black boxes.

Have you considered room acoustics? That's my first question when people ask me for home theater advice. Your theater's acoustic environment is as important to your system's sound quality as any single component. Sure, you can improve the sound with a new amplifier, new speakers, or the latest and greatest EX/ES processor; however, if your room isn't acoustically optimized, you still won't get maximum performance from your system, no matter how much it costs. Adding acoustic treatment is probably the easiest and most effective thing you can do to improve your sonic environment. Granted, it can be daunting to calculate reverberation times so that you add the right amount of acoustic treatment. Fortunately, Performance Media Industries (PMI) has done the work for you with their CinePanel acoustic-treatment kits.

Geoffrey Morrison Posted: May 02, 2001 Published: May 03, 2001 0 comments
The fifth sense.

From the time movies first emerged as a pastime, filmmakers and theater owners have tried to come up with ways to make the movie experience more and more realistic. The picture (other than size) couldn't change, so they tried other ways. Some, like the Smellorama, didn't work. Others, like multichannel sound, did. Moving from one channel to six or eight channels, most people would think, "I'm surrounded by sound. What else is there?" What all, or at least most, systems lack is the ability to touch you—to literally touch you. Clark Synthesis' line of transducers aims to change that with tactile sound.

Michael Trei Posted: Nov 29, 2000 Published: Nov 30, 2000 0 comments
Power to the people.

There was a time when playing with audio was a lot of fun. I was a pretty tweaky guy and would regularly try out all of the latest tweaks and accessories. Then, about seven or eight years ago, I kind of burned out. I had gone to visit the home of a fellow audiophile who was so obsessed with adjusting and fiddling with things that listening to music had taken a back seat. Rather than see myself following the same path, I decided to go on kind of an antitweak rant. Sure, careful setup remains important, but enjoying music has become even more so. Consequently, when a manufacturer approaches me with some new device made from Unobtainium that's supposed to make my life better for a mere $299, I tend to get defensive. This, however, was not my reaction when I first saw the PS Audio P300 Power Plant because most of its design approach followed what I had for years thought would be a great way to deal with the crappy AC power most utilities deliver.

Krissy Rushing Posted: Apr 28, 2000 Published: Apr 29, 2000 0 comments
Winning the war over remote reproduction.

If you've got as much gear as the average home theater writer, you can relate to the panicky feeling you get when you go to the kitchen for a beer and some snacky cakes, come back, and find that two of your remotes have shacked up to make a third . . . and a fourth . . . and a fifth—to the point where your collection of expensive coffee-table books is hidden under a pile of black, rectangular gadgets. That's a scary feeling—some of us have even gone into therapy because of it. Don't worry, you're not hallucinating, but you do have a problem. You need to simplify. With all the remote possibilities out there, the possibility that you'll find one that will jibe with your system and your needs isn't remote at all. You just need to figure out what sort of remote is best for you. And since we're, well, sort of control freaks (as the expression goes), we can help you figure out if you want a universal remote, a learning remote, a programmable touchscreen remote, or some combination thereof.

John Sciacca Posted: Oct 16, 2012 0 comments

App is a word that was barely even part of the public lexicon a few years ago, but now has become such an entrenched part of it that even my mom — quite possibly the least technologically inclined person on the planet — drops the phrase, “There’s probably an app for that.”

Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 15, 2011 0 comments
A product that functions imperfectly yet possesses a singular character can be as enjoyable to own as one that delivers unassailable performance. Before you argue the point, know that millions of Harley owners stand ready to back me up.
John Sciacca Posted: Jan 14, 2011 0 comments

There are so many Pow! Bang! Ka-chow! buzzwords thrown out by the consumer electronics industry's marketing war chariots that smaller, more important things often get lost or completely overwhelmed in the ground clutter.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Jul 17, 2012 0 comments

There’s some debate among vinylphiles about whether USB phono preamps need to exist, but I for one am glad they do. When I bring home my latest haul of vinyl from Amoeba Records, I love being able to plug a laptop straight into my NAD PP 3 to make quick MP3s of albums I like so I can listen to them on my smartphone. (Sacrilege!) It’s easier than making an analog connection, and it bypasses the lousy analog-to-digital converter built into my laptop.

With the Zphono-USB, Parasound brings new versatility and features to the USB phono pre concept.

John Sciacca Posted: Jun 06, 2012 0 comments

Summer’s arrival means it’s time to peel your pasty self off of the couch and head outside for a little sunshine and fresh air. But just because you’re stepping outside the indoor A/V sanctuary doesn’t mean you have to go all Trappist monk with your entertainment. And I’m not talking about dragging an iPod and headphones or (heaven forbid) some relic of a boombox outside.

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